T-Mobile Full Monty plan not "unlimited", rules ASA

17 Apr 2013

T-Mobile reprimanded for peer-to-peer restrictions on "unlimited" plans

T-Mobile has been reprimanded by the advertising watchdog for claiming its Full Monty plans come with "unlimited internet".

The Full Monty is T-Mobile's top-tier tariff, allegedly offering unlimited calls, texts and internet access, including tethering and VoIP calls.

However, the Full Monty plan is also subject to a traffic management policy, which prompted one complainant to the Advertising Standards Authority to question whether it was fair to describe the internet element of the deal as "unlimited".

In its defence, T-Mobile said the traffic management policy consisted of four parts: anti-spam measures, choking of peer-to-peer traffic during "peak hours", and hard limits on both download and upload speeds.

T-Mobile admitted that customers on the Full Monty plan are limited to downloads of 4Mbits/sec, even though the HSPA+ network can theoretically deliver download speeds of up to 21Mbits/sec. T-Mobile argued that this wasn't a damaging restriction, as average network speeds are only 3Mbits/sec and that "the cap would have had very little or no impact on customers seeking to download at peak times".

When it came to the 1Mbit/sec upload limit, T-Mobile argued that "upload use was low, [and that] it was therefore reasonable to conclude that uploading was not a material part of the service and was not a key part of customers' expectations about the service."

Astonishingly, The ASA agreed that these speed restrictions were not relevant to the consideration of whether the service could be described as "unlimited".

Peer-to-peer limits

However, the advertising watchdog did ultimately take exception to T-Mobile's peer-to-peer restrictions. T-Mobile admitted that it slowed down peer-to-peer uploads and downloads during the "peak hours" of 8am to 2am every day. It also argued that P2P "was more suited to a fixed-line broadband connection using a laptop or PC and was not a common activity for customers using their mobile phone to connect to the internet because of the limited storage capacity of most mobile phones".

That argument didn't impress the ASA, which noted that T-Mobile's so-called "peak hour" restrictions left "only a six-hour period during the middle of the night during which peer-to-peer activity was not slowed down".

Furthermore, the ASA ruled that the "ad's inclusion of tethering within the terms of the service was likely to lead consumers to expect that they could engage in more bandwidth-intensive activities, such as peer-to-peer activity, using the mobile device in conjunction with a computer."

T-Mobile was told that the "unlimited" claim must not appear again in its current form.

T-Mobile dropped tethering from its Full Monty deal last summer, raising the question of why it took the ASA so long to address the complaint.

In a statement sent to PC Pro, T-Mobile said it was "pleased that the ASA has ruled that the majority of our traffic management policies are compliant with the CAP Codes. However, we will take on board the ASA’s findings on peer to peer file sharing and make the necessary changes to our network traffic management.

"Our customers should rest assured that the speeds available to them on our Full Monty plans are sufficient for all devices and users - including data downloaders with the latest smartphones, and data services such as video streaming, social networking, browsing, emailing, and music downloading."

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